Citizens assembly will give 'unprecedented' boost to direct democracy in Brussels

Citizens assembly will give 'unprecedented' boost to direct democracy in Brussels
89 members of a citizens' assembly will seek to exert direct democracy in Brussels and act as a counterweight to the regional parliament. Credit: Agora.Brussels/Facebook

A political party in Brussels represented by a single MP is seeking to create a fully citizen-based assembly which will act as a counterweight to politicians in the regional parliament.

On Wednesday, Agora, which defines itself as a citizens' movement rather than a political party, organised a random draw of thousands of residents of the Brussels-Capital Region.

Live-streamed on Facebook, the draw saw representatives from the group pick out names from a hat out of a pool of between 4,000 and 6,000 people living in Brussels.

Citing the example of the German Community, which in June created its own citizens' assembly, Agora said that the assembly's goal would be to increase citizen influence and participation throughout the new legislative term.

"Today, citizens only get to express themselves by voting every five years. "Therefore, they have little control over what happens in their city," Agora said in a press release, adding that the decisions were taken by an "elected elite."

In a press release, the group said any Brussels resident who has the right to vote in a municipal election can be a part of the assembly.

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Through this "unprecedented" democracy initiative in Brussels, Agora's long-term ambition is to make the assembly a permanent institution capable of "enriching" Brussels' regional politics.

A total of 89 people will make up the assembly, a figure which mirrors the number of MPs sitting in the Brussels parliament.

Agora said it would work to ensure that the assembly is gender-balanced and that it is representative of the population of Brussels in terms of its members' age and level of education.

The group said the assembly will start holding its first hearings from January 2020, and that its members will to meet once a month and will receive compensation for their participation.

The propositions adopted in the assembly will then be tabled and defended in the regional parliament by Agora's single MP, Pepijn Kennis.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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